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Secrets from the Corner Office: Amy Stern of United Hospice of Rockland

The series will feature interviews with prominent business leaders in the Hudson Valley including Joseph Rand of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate | Rand Realty, Sabrina Hosang Jordan of Caribbean Food Delights, Courtney Boniface of Cane & Boniface, John Wickes of Ira Wickes Arborists, Ann Byne of the Byne Group, Steve Botto of Steve Botto Landscaping, Sheldon Horowitz of the Safe Harbour Group and many others. Each of the interview participants will answer the same five questions so that readers can get consistent insight into the thinking of the Hudson Valley’s most successful business people.

Here is the interview of Amy Stern of United Hospice of Rockland.

What one decision/event had the biggest impact on your business?

The decision to build the Joe Raso Hospice Residence has had the biggest impact on our organization and those we serve. Up until that time, all hospice care was provided in the community; in patient and family members homes, in nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, etc. By listening to multiple constituencies, we believed our community needed and wanted an alternative option for the provision of end-of-life care other than what existed at the time. From careful analysis, we knew that the only way it would be possible would be if we were successful at raising the entire cost for land acquisition construction, furnishings and start-up costs. We anticipated an operating deficit and could not add to that deficit. The community, led by Joe Raso, helped us to achieve our goal of raising the needed funds. In March, the residence will celebrate its 6th anniversary. Each year, we now care for hundreds of patients and families at the residence. The unanticipated benefit that came along with it was that the increased attention to United Hospice of Rockland that came with the creation of the residence that has enabled us to care for even more folks in the community than previously.

What is the best business advice that you ever received?

The best business advice I ever received came from a consultant that we hired to examine our admission practices. After spending several days interviewing us and accompanying staff on visits, she said, “You are not so customer friendly”. It felt like she plunged a knife in my/our heart(s). We listened carefully to her recommendations, implemented the overwhelming majority of them and as a result increased the number of patients we were serving by 46% and are hopefully seen as responsive to our services. I think it is helpful to have outsiders evaluate business practices and remain open to what they might share though it might be difficult to hear.

What is the one thing that you know now about your business that you wish you knew sooner?

When United Hospice of Rockland got started 30 years ago, mission is what drove every decision. Mission still drives every decision but as the saying goes, no margin, no mission. We have learned to be strategic about the challenges we take on, examining the financial implications of our possible choices. We recognize the need for us to provide a high quality core service and proceed with caution as we tackle new endeavors. For a not-for-profit business to be successful and sustainable for the long haul, it must build reserves which can spin off revenue to help cover potential deficits and to provide capital for investment in growth.

What is the secret to good hiring?

Do not settle by hiring employees who do not possess the skills and talents that you need and deserve. All businesses face hiring challenges and perhaps no more so then when a critical position is/will become vacant. Filling the position with a candidate that is adequate versus outstanding is never a good decision. As difficult as it sometimes is to live with the void, it is best to wait till the right candidate is found.

With all of the demands on your time, how do you organize your day?

I am someone who makes a lot of lists to keep myself organized. I still use paper for that (sometimes sending myself email reminders) and carry pads and notebooks with me which accounts for one reason why my pocketbook is so large. I also need to start my day knowing my priorities, so therefore most evenings I clean up my unanswered emails, send emails on subjects that are weighing on me and move forward the next day knowing what needs to get done and in what order.


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